January 20, 2017 3:55 pm

‘Beaches’ Lifetime movie: 2017 remake puts new spin on old classic

Nia Long and Idina Menzel star in the 2017 Lifetime TV movie 'Beaches.'

Lifetime/Corus Entertainment

The 1988 Bette Midler movie Beaches has long been a staple “chick flick,” or so they’re called, and is considered one of the founding films of the genre. Upon your first viewing, it’s recommended that you have tissues and a shoulder to cry on; indeed, it has very strong tearjerker potential.

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Lifetime has remade Beaches for the modern era, keeping the plot and characters pretty much the same but putting a more contemporary spin on it. Unless you’re some sort of monster, the tears will still flow. This time around, instead of Midler, the movie stars Broadway star Idina Menzel (Frozen) as CC Bloom and Nia Long (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Third Watch) as Hillary Whitney Essex, the two women whose lifelong friendship is at the movie’s core.

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The 2017 version does have some other differences, including new music by Menzel, but in part, the TV movie is an homage to the original, a tribute to the lasting power of female friendship. Besides having Kleenex at the ready, here are some things to know about the Beaches remake.

The TV movie is filled with Easter eggs for longtime Beaches fans to spot.

According to the production team, there are numerous little tidbits strewn throughout the TV movie that longtime fans of Beaches may spot along the way. Whether it’s a certain person in the background or a specific piece of clothing worn by an actor in the original, the powers-that-be paid careful attention to please the Beaches die-hards.

“Even the first AD [assistant director] did little touches… you won’t believe it… but she would have people come in that were in the original, in the scene,” said director Allison Anders. “Extras in the background would be exactly like the ones from the original scene. Not the same person, obviously, but a doctor would show up, so she would direct the background players and have a doctor in there.”

WATCH BELOW: Idina Menzel, Nia Long talk Beaches TV movie [via ET Canada]

“Every step of the way, people were storytelling,” she continued. “Certain iconic shots, the beachhouse, repeated the last shot that [original director] Garry Marshall did.”

This is an emulation of the original, not a copy.

The idea of the TV movie is to provide the Beaches experience to a whole new generation who may not have even heard of the original film. The main crux of the movie’s plot — that female friendships are enduring, powerful things — is the front-running theme, and that’s what the producers behind the project are hoping emerges in the new version.

“Almost 30 years [after the original], we’re excited to invite an entirely new generation to come along on this journey with us, to feel what it’s like to love your best friend, to laugh, cry, and fight for life together, until the bitter end,” said Liz Gateley, head of programming at Lifetime.

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“Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, and then moving to a big city, and living in New York, and living bi-coastal, your friendships are the things that keep you grounded,” said Long. “And I think for me, Beaches is always a reminder of that. [Idina and I] both have our own best friends, and we’re both mothers. So a lot of the themes in the film really resonate pretty easily, and it’s just about making the scene your own, and honouring the original film.”

“If I’m being completely honest, I was terrified to do it at first because I love the movie,” said Menzel. “I think it’s a beautiful, beautiful movie. Bette Midler was an idol for me, my whole life. I continue to be inspired by her, so it’s a daunting task. But as a performer, you look at a role, and you see where you can learn and exercise your talents and your craft, and… you know, no pun intended, but I felt like I could spread my wings in this role. And so after saying no to myself 12 times, I finally gave into it.”

Bette Midler gave her blessing for Menzel to re-record her songs.

Of course, the whole production would be moot if Midler didn’t throw her support behind the production and Menzel. The legendary singer and actor did just that in August, saying she was excited to see the new take on one of her biggest movies.

Menzel has re-recorded her own versions of Midler’s iconic songs Wind Beneath My Wings and The Glory of Love, which are both featured in the TV movie. (The soundtrack is available on iTunes.)

For her part, Long also hopes to do justice to the role of Hillary, played by Barbara Hershey.

“Hopefully she’ll call me after and say, ‘Well done,’ and not, ‘You sucked,'” joked Long.

The production is jam-packed with women in front of and behind the camera.

Aside from the obvious fact that the source material (Iris Rainer’s 1985 novel of the same name) is penned by a woman, the vast majority of the production team and crew are women. The TV movie is directed by Anders, the screenplay co-writer is Nikole Beckwith and the executive producers are Denise Di Novi and Alison Greenspan. The only men in the movie are mere love interests, there to buttress the story about CC and Hillary as they make their way through life.

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Some people might wonder why this film needed to be remade at all.

“It’s a reminder,” said Long.

“And also, if it can open a new discussion at this time about where women are, and how we balance and navigate all of these passions we have and ourselves career and our family… I think it’s similar to back then, but I think things have changed. So it’s just another way to start a conversation,” agreed Menzel.

“I think there’s one other thread with Nia’s storyline that makes it different from the original, which is that she’s a woman that has a career and finds her true joy and passion in being a mother, and that’s something that I think women… that debate of career vs. motherhood, is something that will touch a lot of women, and it’s a new angle on that journey from the original,” said Anders.

‘Beaches’ premieres Saturday, January 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime Canada.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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